Celebs Less Weight-Conscious

imagesFemale celebrities are obsessing less about their weight. Will that body acceptance free the rest of us to accept ourselves?

Voluptuous celebs include Christina Hendricks of “Mad Men,” Kat Dennings, a star of “2 Broke Girls,” Christina Aguilera from “The Voice,” Emmy winner Melissa McCarthy of “Mike & Molly,” Mindy Kaling of “The Mindy Project,” Rebel Wilson, who won a hunky guy in “Bachelorette,” and Lena Dunham, writer-director-producer-star of “Girls.”

Even the modeling industry has branched out with Real Beauty ads and Cosmo featuring a “plus-size” model at size 12 instead of the usual size 0.

Maybe the biggest surprise was Lady Gaga whose oversized personality materialized in bodily form last year. As Alessandra Stanley at the New York Times put it:

Gaining weight is the most outrageous stunt Lady Gaga has pulled to date. Instead of wearing raw animal flesh at a public event this summer, she wore her own — the one metamorphosis that even Madonna wouldn’t dare undertake.

But I’m also struck by Lena Dunham who as “Hannah” unselfconsciously runs about in her undies – if she wears anything at all – while eating assorted goodies. It’s remarkable. No body shame or food shame.

Of course, Ms. Dunham and Ms. Kaling have more power to break rules because they have created, produced and written their own shows, as a Times piece points out.

Interesting how power can free you, considering the body torture women have historically undergone to show off their husbands’ success — as the men sit comfortably by. At one point women wore constricting corsets so people could see that their husbands were wealthy enough to support a spouse who didn’t need to work – and couldn’t in that straight jacket. Tiny bound feet once served the same end in China. In parts of West Africa today women are force fed into obesity to demonstrate their husbands’ financial ability to over-feed them. And then the poor copy the rich and end up in even worse straits.

Women the world over internalize beauty norms that harm them.

Some suspect the ideals are put in place with the aim of harming them: make women obedient and so distracted by their looks that they have no time for anything else, like gaining political power. As Naomi Wolf suggested in her bestseller, The Beauty Myth:

A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, it is an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history: a quietly mad population is a tractable one.

So it’s interesting that when Dunham’s character Hannah is asked about her flabby tummy she responds:

No, I have not tried a lot to lose weight. Because I decided I was going to have some other concerns in my life.

You know, so the real Lena Dunham could become the writer, director, producer and star of “Girls.”

Maybe we should all have greater concerns in our lives than how slim we can be.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on February 6, 2013, in body image, feminism, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. This is good news. We definitely could use a wider range of bodies that are considered beautiful.

  2. Excellent insight from Naomi Wolf on the cultural obsession with thinness (for women). You can’t achieve great things if you’re starving yourself or obsessing over what you put in your mouth 24/7. I used to have an eating disorder (for about half my life) and I never realized just how distorted my thinking had become. My anti depressants didn’t help because I didn’t have enough body fat for them to work. These past couple of years of “normal” eating have freed me to think about other things. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when our brains aren’t obsessed with the “trivial”.

  3. Size TWELVE is a plus size? Thanks again for another well written piece.

  4. It drives me crazy that im a 200 lb male and I’m considerd obese. If you’re happy with yourself then why myst doctors tell you to lose more?

  5. I really like the comment made by leah dunham. I don’t watch a lot of television but when i stumbled upon her show, “Girls”, I found her character charming with all her snacking and sarcasm. Her show is honest which is what I think everyone could use a dose of. The other day i found myself actually feeling anry and defensive to hear a Kardashian bashing her and about every piece of her image on some fashion show. It was like heres this girl, making it a point to be her genuine self and the world still carries on with her careless judgement. it is disgusting. It reminded me why I don’t watch television- because they emphasize on this negative attitude and disregard strong female figures for unrelated shallow reasons. I believe if we followed after this example of, not necessarily having no concerns for our appearance, but not making our lives surround it (men and women) we’d be more productive human beings such a ms. dunham.

  6. More recently, not as many female celebrities are obsessed with their weight and trying to look stick skinny. The celebrities that aren’t too skinny and have curves are seen as attractive. I also believe that those who have to wear plus sized clothing are seen as beautiful. I really like that magazines are starting to broaden their horizons and use plus sized models in their magazines. Examples of other actresses with curves would include Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez, and Scarlett Johansson. I read an article about Jessica Alba and a photo shoot she had. In the final pictures, her curves weren’t there and instead were edited out of all the pictures. Being that she is well-known for having a beautiful curvy body, it was a shock that the editors felt the need to cut her curves out of the pictures. Jessica Alba couldn’t do anything about it, but just ignore it. Many other actresses have to deal with being called fat because they have curves. I believe women should be happy with the way they look and love their body however it is whether they are skinny or curvy.

  7. Mostly, I believe that a healthy body should be encouraged with healthy ways of getting to a healthy status that is right for that individual. The one thing I despise across the board is how health has become a standardized thing in which there is the common misconception that if for example a particular weight loss program works for one person, it will work for another individual. That is not always the case. I have gratitude that these celebrities are focusing less on how they look verses say what they do or how they act. There is much influence that celebrities hold and it is their job to also be role models as well as doing the job or profession.

    In not being concerned about how they look, celebrities begin to change the standard of health and even without maybe knowing it, also change lives both physically and psychologically. This is in my opinion heading towards a good thing.

  8. Having a narrow definition of beauty is harmful to society, especially one as diverse as our own. It is empowering to see someone who looks like you considered beautiful. Beauty should be redefined and more inclusive; it is biologically impossible for all of us to be tall, white, and slender. Losing weight should only be of concern if it is for the purpose of being healthy. Growing up, I was always called “gordita” and my sister was “flaquita.” Gordita means chunky and flaquita means slender. I absolutely hated it, I’ve never had any major weight issues, but being address that way would infuriate me. Beauty and weight standards are so pervasive that even a pre-puberty child knows that being a “gordita” is not considered to be a good thing.

  9. Through the past couple of years, there has been a growing acceptance of “curvy” and “plus-size” women, models and celebrities. But it is not until recently that the subject seems to be in the spotlight, and all thanks to successful women in the media. It is refreshing to see ‘normal’ size women in the media who embrace their figure or do not obsess over it. Instead, they focus on their career, job, and work that have led them to such great success. And just like many aspects of society, much ideology and ways of thinking are influenced by the media so it is inspiring to see these women continue to do what they do and be great at it. Hopefully as this trend becomes a norm, women will discontinue their obsessive behavior on image and focus more on their ability to achieve greatness.

  10. What a huge encouragement it is to know that there are those out there in the world that do not obsess on weight loss but rather focus on healthy lifestyles, relationships and so on. I don’t believe that Lena Dunham eats poor quality food all day and position herself on the couch day in and day out without any form of exercise however; the mindset that she displays mimics those who integrate healthy eating and exercise as a healthy apart of their everyday lifestyle. According to PCRM(Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine) article on ‘Permanent Weight Control’ suggests that long term change in healthful eating habits complemented by regular exercise has proven to be most beneficial. This is to say that the quick diets, corsets, small shoes or whatever one has used in the past to cause themselves in to lose weight or look smaller in certain areas probably has brought more harm than good. It’s time to balance out all that we do and enjoy life more.

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